Horror game series like Resident Evil, Silent Hill, Outlast, and Amnesia enjoy popularity among gamers. Even Five Nights at Freddy’s has been going strong for years, with a movie on the way. However, even video game lovers often overlook some excellent horror games.
It’s the Halloween season—a time for spooky decorations, scary monsters, and terrifying movies. While it might not be for everyone, horror fans enjoy the thrill of the chase and the feeling of vulnerability. All of these factors make video games a great medium to explore the genre.
Even if the games on this list haven’t won any game award, they pack tons of scares into their fun gameplay.
The Horror Games: Clock Tower (1995)
Though the first game did not get an official English translation, Clock Tower is a worthy horror game.
Clock Tower begins with a tried-and-true premise and then adds a very unique twist. The game follows Jennifer as she explores a mansion with her friends from their orphanage. What begins as a simple stroll around the area, though, ends up becoming a matter of life and death.
The game was a point-and-click adventure game which at the time was starting to become a dying genre. The exploration and puzzle-solving more than makes up for any shortcomings. The game manages to be exciting and, of course, scary. Clock Tower also introduces an underrated horror villain in the form of the Scissor Man, a hunchback who stalks his victims with an oversized pair of scissors.
Clock Tower has had games released in North America since then, but the first game remains a Japanese exclusive for the Super Nintendo. However, very recently, they announced that a remaster of the original game will be available for modern systems shortly.
If you can’t wait that long, however, there are exist fan-made translation roms for emulator users.
The Lost Friends: Illbleed (2001)
The ’80s saw the rise of B horror movies playing in nearly every theater. The folks at Crazy Games saw this trend, remembered, and turned that into a video game.
Crazy Games released Illbleed exclusively on the Sega Dreamcast. Illbleed remains one of the rarest games in existence. With PlayStation 2 and Gamecube soon to outpace the Swansong console, this horror game was one of the last games released for the Dreamcast. Illbleed spins the horror game genre.
Eriko Christy heads to a special attraction called Illbleed to find her missing friends. Illbleed markets itself as authentic haunted house experience where the winners receive a huge cash prize. The catch? The place is a living death trap!
The game has a unique mechanic. Fear levels affect players’ senses, including determining your sanity and health. Players will have to fight, investigate, and plan accordingly if you wish to make it out alive and find your friends.
Throughout the theme park, players face through six levels that take homage to horror B movies. Each comes with creative themes, monsters, and trials. The game also has multiple endings for those who would like to go through it another time. Even though the humor can be a bit tongue-in-cheek, Illbleed is the kind of game that is great for getting friends together, getting some popcorn, and having a few laughs.
Ready Player Horror Game: System Shock 2 (1999)
In the mid- to late 90s, PC and PlayStation produced many classic horror titles like Resident Evil 2 and Silent Hill. First-person shooters like Doom, Duke Nukem 3D, and Quake also enjoyed their heydays. Combining both elements? A great horror experience.
Fans agree System Shock 2 is the best cyberpunk horror game in the series. Taking place 42 years after the first game, an alien lifeform known as the Many overwhelms the Von Braun. You are now trapped with several cybernetic monsters and rogue AI trying to kill you.
What makes System Shock 2 so amazing? There are so many (pun intended) ways to play the game. The level design salso eparates it from other roleplaying games. Gameplay mechanics and options later proved a huge influence on the Bioshock series. In fact, Nightdive Studios is planning to remake the series.
The Contagion Horror Game: Extermination (2001)
Extermination is a great example of Sony’s games having no shortage of hidden gems.
PlayStation 2 owners enjoyed many great horror titles, like Resident Evil 4 and Silent Hill 2 and 3. Extermination, however, was seemingly unknown to many during the early years of the PS2.
Dennis Riley and his team are trapped in a derelict facility in the Antarctic, unaware that a deadly infection is spreading. Mutated creatures containing a virus attack the people inside, including your teammates. Now you must try to stay alive and avoid the infection of these Bugs while uncovering the mystery behind this attack.
The game makes use of elements found in horror games like Resident Evil and Metal Gear Solid. Players need to keep an eye on their infection meter as much as they need to check their health. Your chances of infection and death increase not just by getting hit, but walking on water and not taking a vaccine. Yeah, what are the odds that a game from 2001 would be relevant to today’s current events?
While the game is far from perfect, Extermination is still fun entertainment. It might not be game-of-the-year material, but that doesn’t keep it from being a good time… and unfortunately relevant social commentary.
The Abyss Horror Game: Deep Fear (1998)
Most people tend to forget about the Sega Saturn and what it had to offer. Yes, Sega lost the console wars in the late 90s, but game lovers will never forgt Sega’s unique titles.
Deep Fear finds its horror in an underwater base setting. Attacked by a horrible virus, the base now crawls with mutants and monsters. Playing as John Mayor (not to be confused with John Mayer), players navigate throughout the base in hopes of escape. Oh, and you also have to worry about running out of oxygen while keeping an eye on health and ammo. Why make it easy for the players?
The mechanics found in horror games like Resident Evil heavily influenced Deep Fear. Even down to the tank controls and limited save points. The added tension of preserving your oxygen while dodging the mutants makes Deep Fear stressful for even veterans of survival horror games.
The game was only released in Europe and Japan, with no official American release. What makes this heartbreaking was that it would be the last game before Saturn was finally retired. Not to mention, you had to be lucky enough to own a Sega Saturn to play it. As a result, the only way to play this game now is through emulation. Despite these setbacks, Sega’s capabilities shine in Deep Fear.
The Deadliest Catch: Cold Fear (2005)
Cold Fear was possibly the game fans of The Thing and Evil Dead would die for. Set out in the Arctic Sea, Tom Hansen picks up a distress call from a Russian ship and heads over to investigate. He then wrestles with harsh stormy weather, mercenaries onboard the ship, and mutated monsters and zombies hunting him down.
The game itself rides the coattails of horror games like Resident Evil, with many critics comparing it to Resident Evil 4. You can imagine where they ended up putting their favor. Having said that, the game’s unique and realistic rocking physics threatening to toss players off a ship stands out. Not only does this make aiming more difficult, it forces the players to slow down and take their time with their shots.
Supplies are limited, as is part of the course for survival horror games. Yet stocking up won’t help you: you can only resupply from certain points or scavenge off of dead bodies.
There was plenty of interesting scares and mystery that surrounded the ship. Cold Fear was even meant to be part of the Alone in the Dark series but ultimately became its IP. Even though the game was a commercial failure at the time, fans today can appreciate it for what it set out to do.
RPG Horror Games: Yume Nikki (2004)
The RPG Maker community has always had strong supporters and brings out some of the best indie developers for amazing games. One of the earliest examples of this is Yume Nikki, a game that has since gained a cult following for its bizarre and surreal game designs.
Players take control of a girl named Matsudoki, who explores her many dreams. Not the fun kind, either. Matsudoki can’t wake up or even escape her dreams. She explores these dreams in hopes of uncovering the mystery behind them and find a way out.
Yume Nikki is unlike any other RPG. No dialogue or combat. Instead, the game hooks players with exploration and experimentation. Dozens of ‘effects change Matsudoki’s appearance and grant her abilities. These effects also trigger events that explain what’s happening
The game was such a huge success, it would eventually get a remake titled Yume Nikki: Dream Diary. Since its debut on PC, Yume Nikki has become a huge influence and inspiration to indie developerss.
You’ll find the game on Steam free of charge. Seriously, you have nothing to lose! Except, maybe your general sanity.
No Longer Human: Kuon (2004)
Many stories and monsters draw inspiration from Japanese mythology and folklore. Hence, horror games taking influence from evil yokai and curses? A great idea. The folks at FromSoftware thought so too, and gave fans Kuon. Yes, Kuon lives up to FromSoftware’s hard and addicting reputation.
In the Fujiwara Manor in Kyoto, two magical mulberry trees bring the dead back to life. However, as the trees start absorbing the living into itself, the Kuon Ritual begins attracting many evil spirits to the manor.
The game takes place around the Heian Era of Feudal Japan, with the tales told by two characters. Utsuki and her sister they explore an estate, hoping discover what their father has been up to. However, they get separated. Afterwards, the onmyoji, or exorcists, come to investigate the rumors of the tree that is consuming the living. Sakyua is now the last of her fellow exorcists and has to purge the evil from this place before it spreads even further.
While the gameplay isn’t as in-depth or impressive as that of other titles, Kuon‘s amazing atmosphere breeds mystery and fear. Hence, it’s a stand-out among horror games.
Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem (2002)
Even Nintendo can surprise us from time to time. You would never guess that a company known for making family-friendly titles like Mario and Animal Crossing would ever dream of a horror title like this. Surprise! They decided to take a chance, and boy did it pay off.
Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem was exclusive to the Nintendo Gamecube in 2002. After finding that her grandfather was found dead in his mansion, Alexandra decides to see what it was that caused her grandfather to die. That’s about as much of the plot that the game gives you off the bat. Twelve different perspectives from four different time periods comprise this horror game.
The game was amazing for its time, with great sound design and its unusual fourth wall-breaking scares. The TV changes a channel on you. Your head detaches in a hallucination. Stuff like that.
Honestly, no other gamecomes close to what Eternal Darkness accomplishes. Fans beg on their hands and knees for a rerelease or a remake for modern systems.
Until then, there’s always emulation or the Gamecube, so long as you have the money for the game.
Through The Looking Glass: Rule of Rose (2006)
Rule of Rose stirred up a lot of controversy when it was released due to misinformation. In fact, Rule of Rose was banned in the United Kingdom after allegations that it depicted of child molestation and murder,. These were never true. However, that still didn’t stop the game from being shunned from Europe before anyone had a chance to see what this hidden gem had to offer.
In 1930s England, Jennifer arrives at an orphanage after receiving a book from a young boy. She ends up kidnapped and sent off to an airship run by orphan children who have established control. The Prince then makes Jennifer part of their aristocracy as the lowest rank. She must prove herself to them by finding ‘gifts’ to please them. Armed with only her wits, a loyal dog named Brown, and whatever weapons she can salvage, Jennifer fights for survival as she tries to find these treasures and uncover the secrets of this orphanage and the children therein.
Rule of Rose heavily draws from novels such as Alice in Wonderland and Lord of the Flies. It also shares similar controls and gameplay mechanics from another lesser-known game, Haunting Ground. The average reviews and controversy ensured Rule of Rose was not as talked about as other horror games.
The game is now considered a collector’s item. Actually, it’s worth hundreds of dollars on eBay. Unfortunately, that means the only way anyone can experience this game is through emulation or breaking their wallets. Still, if you are looking for a horror game that breaks convention and tells tales of self-worth and acceptance, then this is the game for you.